What Is Activity Therapy and Why Is Movement Important to Recovery?

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Finding ways to incorporate movement into your life post-recovery can help you manage your substance use and mental health symptoms. Activity therapy, sometimes referred to as recreational therapy, can help you develop interests that will keep your body moving. It may also help you build a community and learn something new about yourself.

Pathways Recovery Center offers activity therapy. We have seen its ability to help clients build skills to maintain recovery in their post-treatment lives.

An Activity Therapy Session

Every activity therapy session will be a little different depending on what type of activity you'll be asked to perform. Some activities that could be performed during activity therapy include:

  • Games
  • Trust exercises
  • Sports
  • Arts and crafts
  • Trust exercises
  • Dance
  • Animal care

In an activity therapy session, a mental health professional will provide an activity, usually a group activity, for you and your peers. Afterward, the mental health professional might ask you questions to guide the session. They might ask, “How did you feel doing that activity?” or “How did you relate to your peers during the activity?”

Goals and Benefits of Activity Therapy

Including activities in therapy allows you to put your emotional skills to use in a quasi-real-life scenario. Activity therapy may push you out of your comfort zone. This can help you develop life skills such as socialization, confidence, and trust.

The goals of activity therapy are to reduce stress, build confidence, and improve social skills. It can also teach you how to manage substance use and other mental health symptoms during a more stressful situation. Finally, it can help you connect with your inner strength, which you can use to stop the relapse cycle.

Making Connections in an Encouraging Environment

It's good to challenge yourself by participating in an activity that is a little outside of your comfort zone. This will force you to trust your peers to assist you in the activity. Working with others and witnessing their kindness and support will also make it easier for you to trust and open up to others. When you are comfortable being vulnerable, you will be able to create deeper connections with your peers in treatment and outside of it.

Activity therapy can also strengthen your social skills as you work together toward a common goal. You may have to use communication skills to complete some of the activities. The social skills that you learn during activity therapy you can apply to other relationships. This is important because making meaningful connections during addiction recovery treatment can grow your support network. You'll have peers in your support network post-treatment who you know will have your back.

Developing Confidence and New Interests

During activity therapy, you might surprise yourself with your ability to complete certain activities. Possibly, you'll find an activity that you didn't know you were good at. This will build confidence.

When you see yourself succeed at a task, you'll have confidence in your abilities to succeed in other areas of your life. Laying a foundation to build confidence can motivate you to invest yourself in recovery. This is because you are reinforcing the mindset that you can successfully live a healthier lifestyle.

During activity therapy, you may even find an activity that you love. You might re-discover an old passion or discover a new one. Developing new interests can help you picture yourself living a sober life outside of treatment. It will give you something that fills your time and brings you joy. Being able to enjoy activities can boost your mood, reduce stress, and deescalate emotional crises.

The Importance of Movement in Activity Therapy and Recovery

Many of the activities that you'll perform in activity therapy will involve movement of some sort. Whether you are dancing, playing a sport, or taking care of animals, you will not be sedentary. This leads to many health benefits.

You don't need to move your body intensely to reap the benefits of incorporating movement into your schedule. Some benefits of regularly incorporating even light exercise into your routine include:

  • Improved sleep
  • Increased endurance
  • Stress relief
  • Mood improvement
  • Increased stamina
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Increased mental alertness
  • Weight loss or maintenance
  • Reduced cholesterol

Activity therapy can help you find a method of exercise and movement that you could picture yourself incorporating into your schedule. Exercise doesn't need to be painful or boring. Activity therapy might introduce you to a form of exercise you might enjoy doing every week.

Is Activity Therapy Right for Me?

Activity therapy is one of many complementary treatments that Pathways Recovery offers. This is in addition to art therapy, yoga, music therapy, or mindfulness-based training. Like any complementary treatment option, it should not replace traditional psychotherapy treatment. However, complementary treatments like activity therapy can provide you with significant benefits along your recovery journey.

During your recovery journey, you may try a combination of traditional and complementary treatments. It will take trial and error to discover what types of treatments work for you and what doesn't. A mental health professional can work closely with you to tailor a plan that specifically fits your recovery goals and needs.

Activity therapy could help you manage your SUD symptoms to boost your confidence, get regular exercise, and strengthen your communication skills. You never know what type of new interests you might discover with activity therapy. Pathways Recovery Center offers a variety of complementary treatments such as activity therapy, music therapy, and art therapy. Our mental health professionals will work closely with you to create a treatment plan that will help you build the skills you need to take your recovery one day and one step at a time. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, please call (888) 771-0966 to learn how we can meet you where you are in recovery.

Clinically reviewed by 

Moses Nasser
Dr. Moses Nasser, a double board-certified physician in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine, with expertise in holistic healing, addiction medicine, and psychiatric care, holds an X-waiver to prescribe buprenorphine and has extensive experience in mindfulness-based customer service and medication-assisted treatment.

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